Acend vow to continue underdog Valorant story after partnership disappointment

Acend lift that Valorant Champions trophyMichal Konkol/Riot Games

Acend’s head of esports, Mark ‘Krimson’ Senior, spoke with Dexerto about their partnership snub and what it means for the future of the organization.

Mark Senior is, in his own words, a “relatively pessimistic” person.

So when Acend were left out of Riot Games’ list of ten partners for the developer’s international Valorant league in the EMEA region, he was not as surprised as others.

Acend are still a relatively new organization, founded only in 2021, with a modest following across their social media channels. Acend saw in Valorant a good opportunity to get a foothold in the industry, and were rewarded for some shrewd moves with a world championship title at the end of 2021.

Valorant Champions Tour VCT winners Acend with trophyLance Skundrich, Riot Games
Acend won the first Valorant Champions event, in 2021

It was a remarkable story for Valorant esports at the end of the first year of the VCT circuit, a tale of a small organization triumphing against the odds (one that is becoming increasingly rare in the space as franchising slowly becomes the norm).

But as Acend would find out, competitive success mattered little in Riot’s partner selection process. Instead, the developer looked for organizations that “share our values of putting fans first, celebrate our diverse community, and are committed to supporting pros.” Additionally, Riot sought sustainable partners “who build for the long-term” and who “have created a strong connection with fans through engaging content, a compelling brand, and an exciting roster.”

Acend were not the only ones caught in this quandary. Many other organizations, some of which had been in game since 2020 and had built successful teams, were turned down in the end. They watched as Riot welcomed with open arms organizations with a far less impressive resume in the esport but a massive following.

“Clearly Riot focused on exposure and social following, and it’s certainly one direction to take,” Mark tells Dexerto. “It will most likely be very successful at the end of the day in pushing the goals of the league forward. I am, however, a little disappointed in the variety of regional representation and also the competitive pedigree of the teams they’ve chosen.

“In my mind, organizations had ample opportunity to prove their ability to create and develop great players and rosters, but the majority of them failed to show they could do that. That’s the part that obviously hurts for us, and I’m sure [it’s the same] for teams like Guild, FPX and others.”

Acend’s future in Valorant

As Acend start planning for the future, it is clear that they will have to move on from some of their team members as offers from the international league — by far the most appealing destination in the circuit — start pouring in. There should be no shortage of interest in Acend’s players, especially Mehmet Yağız ‘cNed’ İpek, one of Valorant’s brightest names.

Still, Mark is confident that there is more than enough talent in the region for Acend to build a competitive roster, even if the best players are inevitably plucked by the partner teams.

“I believe It will be difficult for all tier-one players moving forward as the supply outweighs the demand,” he says. “When you look at regional biases that teams will have, I believe there has to be a number of amazing players that end up getting left out of the top spots.”

The partnership announcement has left a bitter taste in many’s mouths, but there is no time to cry over spilled milk. Acend remain committed to Valorant and are laser-focused on the task ahead. There is a clear pathway to get to the international league via Ascension, and Acend want to take it.

“We will continue our focus on the DACH market and aim to participate in the DACH Challengers league in 2023,” Mark says. “We have proven we have excellent scouting and player development, and I believe we can continue that legacy through 2023 and into Ascension. After all, they named it Ascension for a reason, right?

“We’ve always been underdogs, from when we started out in Valorant all the way through to our run at Champions. I always knew that franchising within a Riot title would eventually be a reality, so I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved so far and we’ll continue to exist as underdogs once more, ready to prove ourselves as many times as necessary.”

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